Russian Social Network Vkontakte Eyes Deals With Online Video Services

The popular web site wants to change its reputation as hosting pirated content uploaded by users.

MOSCOW – Russia’s biggest social network Vkontakte plans to sign agreements with local online video services in a bid to shed its reputation as “Russia’s biggest online pirate,” which many rights holders insist it is.

Vkontakte, a local equivalent of Facebook, is in negotiations with several Russian online video services about licensing their content, some participants in the negotiations told the Russian wire service ITAR-TASS. In accordance with the report, Vkontakte intends to replace user-generated illegitimate content with licensed videos.

STORY: Why Hollywood Is Suddenly Marveling Over Piracy Studies

Among Vkontakte’s prospective partners is the online video service RuTube, owned by Gazprom Media, the media wing of the natural gas giant Gazprom. Spokespeople for Vkontakte and RuTube were not able to immediately available for comment. 

For years, Vkontakte, which boasts over 220 million users, has been slammed by rights holders for taking few steps to control user-generated video and audio content, a large share of which is said to be illegitimate. The company insists that it is willing to remove any illegitimate content at the rights holder’s request, but this has been of little consolation to the rights holders, since another copy of a removed video is often uploaded by another user within days or even hours.

Lawsuits filed against Vkontakte usually went nowhere, until last year when the social network lost a case to the music label Gala Records, which many thought created a precedent for fighting piracy on social media. The enactment of a new anti-piracy regulation last summer also forced major online companies to reconsider their approaches to what could be viewed as illegitimate material.